LOWNDES LEADS THE CALTEX CHARGE TO WINTON Defending round champion Craig Lowndes will lead the charge for the Caltex-backed V8 Supercar drivers when the Team Vodafone pilot sets his sights on back-to-back victories at the Winton Motor Raceway...
LOWNDES LEADS THE CALTEX CHARGE TO WINTON
Defending round champion Craig Lowndes will lead the charge for the Caltex-backed V8 Supercar drivers when the Team Vodafone pilot sets his sights on back-to-back victories at the Winton Motor Raceway near Benalla in Victoria this weekend.
Lowndes' victory in 2006 came somewhat of a surprise given the fact that the tight 3.0km circuit is the test track for 20 of the 31 drivers in the championship, not including Lowndes' Caltex-backed Team Vodafone outfit.
The multiple series champion is currently seventh in the championship standings and is confident of climbing closer to the top of the order with a good showing in this weekend's fourth round of the championship.
Lowndes' team-mate Jamie Whincup is currently the highest placed Caltex-backed driver in the Championship Standings in fourth spot. Whincup has been consistent throughout the opening three rounds and given Winton was his test circuit during his Formula Ford career and the early days in a V8 Supercar he should again figure prominently this weekend.
Caltex Racing's Russell Ingall has previously tasted success at the Winton venue with two round victories (1997 and 2001) and a pole position (2001) throughout his illustrious V8 Supercar career.
This year marks Ingall's tenth round aboard a V8 Supercar at Winton and from his previous nine rounds he has recorded four podium finishes with a total of four race victories.
Ingall and his Stone Brothers Racing team-mate James Courtney completed a successful test day at their home track of Queensland Raceway last Friday which has provided them both with an extra boost entering this weekend's round.
Courtney, who had his first start at Winton last year, has continue to repay the faith shown in him by his team bosses with some scintillating pace throughout the opening three rounds of 2007. The ex-Formula One test driver secured pole position in Adelaide and is currently sixth in the championship standings.
Practice begins on Friday afternoon with qualifying being contested on Saturday morning. The first of three 40-lap races will be held on Saturday afternoon with Sunday being highlighted by a pair of 40-lap races.
After four rounds in the 14-round Championship Rick Kelly leads the way ahead of Garth Tander and Todd Kelly.
Russell Ingall - #9 Caltex Racing Ford Falcon "It was good to have a shakedown at Queensland Raceway last Friday which worked very well," said Ingall.
"We have a new team structure which will maximize the development between the two cars and with the way V8 Supercar teams operate today, it's essential that both cars work closely together with the limits on test days and so on.
"I personally don't believe the nature of Winton means it doesn't really suit the Falcon; the tracks that do are yet to come. But there are always surprises and some of the things we tried on Friday were specifically for Winton.
"I know the track very well; it was my home circuit for seven years. If the car is up to it there is a good chance we can pull out a good result."
Craig Lowndes - #888 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon "Heading into the weekend it looks as though rain may pay a major part in the racing, and to be honest I won't really mind, I'm pretty confident on a wet track," said Lowndes.
"This is one of the most important rounds in terms of qualifying at the front, given that there are so few places to pass.
"The team has a good handle on what's required to do well here, and I'm looking forward to getting underway after we won here last year.
"Last week's test proved very successful, and while the tyres we ran on weren't that great we still made some really good progress in terms of set-up."
Jamie Whincup - #88 Team Vodafone Ford Falcon "We had a very good and productive test last Friday where we tested a number of new components ahead of the race weekend at Winton, which will be a significant round in terms of the championship," said Whincup.
"The Team are just phenomenal - they are working really hard to make up the deficit and trying a whole range of new things.
"To see them putting in the hard yards gives me great confidence and inspires me to work even harder on my own preparation.
"Both Craig and I were quick at Winton last year and I am confident we will have quick cars again this year, my focus is to keep the momentum that I've built up from the start of the season going."
James Courtney - #4 Jeld-Wen Motorsport Ford Falcon "Testing on Friday was a bit like the old days in Formula One where I would be testing things for other circuits on tracks that it wasn't meant for," said Courtney.
"It was a difficult session in that regard, when you test Winton stuff at Queensland Raceway you have no gauge from the times on how you are going.
"You really need to trust your crew that you are heading in the right direction. We have come away from Friday learning a lot, not only for Winton but other rounds to come as well.
"It was great to have a run through with the new set up of the engineering guys. Everything went as planned and I feel confident that I have the right group of guys behind me to get the job done.
"I think we have a good shot at the podium this weekend; I have a bit of ground to make up on some of the Holden guys so I would like to come out of the weekend in the top four in the championship.
"We haven't had a lot of luck in recent rounds; it's been pretty frustrating waiting for everything to come together. But good things come to those who wait so there must be something good just around the corner."